246 years ago today, the United States Marine Corps was born at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, PA. Several months after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired, the Continental Congress saw the need for a force that could fight both on land and at sea. Future president John Adams drafted the resolution that states:
“That two Battalions of marines be raised, consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant Colonels, two Majors, and other officers as usual in other regiments; and that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required.”
The owner of Tun Tavern, Captain Samuel Nicholas (recognized as the first Marine Commandant), was commissioned as the new unit’s first officer. Within two months, the Marines departed Chesapeake Bay on their first mission aboard a small fleet of eight ships commanded by Commodore Esek Collins, eventually bound for Providence Island in the Bahamas. The force of 230 Marines and 50 Sailors was able to secure 24 casks of desperately needed gunpowder, as well as 61 combined cannons and mortars from the two forts that guarded the island. However, on the trip home, the Marines suffered their first casualty. In an engagement with the HMS Glasgow off the coast of Rhode Island, Lt. John Fitzpatrick was killed.
The Marines were involved in several significant engagements throughout the Revolutionary War, including the battle of Princeton, as well as countless naval skirmishes and the boarding and capturing of British vessels. They even took part in two raids on British soil under John Paul Jones that were ultimately unsuccessful, but still a display of American willingness to take the fight to the enemy.
When the war for independence was officially over after the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the U.S. Navy was deactivated and the Continental Marines disbanded. 15 years later, now-President John Adams would once again be at the head of building the Marine Corps, when he signed the congressional act to revive the force for good on July 11, 1798. In 1921, however, Commandant John A. Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order Number 47 commemorating the initial founding date and summarizing the history, mission and tradition of the Corps, directing that his order be read to every command on 10 November every year, and it is read at every Marine Corps birthday to this day.
So this is a special Marine Corps Birthday in that this is the 100th anniversary of General Lejeune’s birthday message. Happy birthday, Marines!
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Feature image: Sketch of Tun Tavern (National Archives)